Have fun and eat more ice cream.

Dear favorite people on the planet:

I turn 45 years old in a couple of weeks.

Now, that’s not old-old,

But it’s old enough

For me to know some stuff.

So, I thought I’d share a little bit.

Because I love you.

When all else fades away:

When your heart gets broken.

You fail.

You succeed.

And fail again.

When you’re scared to death.

Or you haven’t a care in the world.

During the up times, the down times, and every in-between time.

For every today and tomorrow

That comes your way,

I love you, my precious children.

That matters almost most of all.

But other things matter, too.

For instance,

The fact that

God is in control

At all times.

No matter what.

He loves you, deeply,

And He wants the best for you.

So, chill out.

And follow Him.

He might not lead you where you want to go,

But He will not lead you astray.

I promise.

And so does He.

Speaking of astray,

Don’t smoke.

It might not kill you, but it’ll make you smell

Like the guy who came to fix our hot water heater that time.

Also, it’ll make your teeth turn yellow.

I know, mine are kind of yellow, but that’s mostly coffee.

Coffee is OK.

But not too much coffee.

Just like almost everything else in life,

Too much will raise your blood pressure,

And make you poop.

Also the yellow teeth.

Astray made me think of ashtray.

You know what?

Brush your teeth more.

We make you brush twice a day,

But you should brush more.

Trust me.

Speaking of trust me,

Trust your mom.

She loves you more than anyone else on the planet.

I love you more than I could ever say

Or write down in a thousand lifetimes.

But she loves you more.

And she also wants the best for you.

So, between her and God,

You guys are in great shape.

Speaking of great shape,

Don’t worry so much about how you look.

Of course, I want you to be healthy,

But chiseled features and six-pack abs

Aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

At least that’s what I hear.

Just look at me!

I convinced the most beautiful woman

On God’s earth

To marry me,

And let me hug and kiss her

(sometimes)

And I have never even tasted kale.

So, you know, don’t be too worried

About being in perfect shape.

Have fun.

And eat more ice cream.

Also, you should like each other.

All of you.

I’m not talking about love.

You already do that.

Because you’re family.

But you should like each other more.

Appreciate each other.

Seek out the incredible things

That make you all so beautifully different

And fall in love with that.

Falling in love with your differences

Will keep you strong.

Together.

Grateful.

Smile more!

Even when you don’t feel like it.

Because smiling changes everything.

It can’t fix you,

But it might fix someone else.

And this is one of those times

When giving means receiving even more.

You never know what encouragement a smile can bring

Until you’ve received one in a time of need.

And your smiles can light up even the darkest rooms.

So, why wouldn’t you smile?

Laugh more, too.

I love it when you laugh.

Everyone does.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating:

My soundtrack in heaven

Will be filled with song after song

Of your beautiful laughter.

Laughing and smiling

And being kind to others –

Especially each other –

Isn’t always easy.

But nothing worth doing ever is.

Right?

Actually, that’s not right.

And don’t ever let anyone tell you different.

Life is not hard.

And the sooner you realize that;

The sooner you can start to truly live.

But you do have to work hard.

You can’t be lazy.

You are entitled to nothing.

You have to work for it.

So, find what you love.

And do it.

A lot.

Every day.

Over and over and over again

Until you become better at it than even you thought you could be.

The search for that thing can be exhausting at times,

But you’ll find it.

You’re strong.

You’re smart.

You’re young.

So, keep looking.

Then find someone to share it with.

Share everything.

You are all so gifted.

So talented.

So beautiful,

And witty,

And unique.

God has blessed each of you with that thing — whatever it is –

That makes you…

You.

And He made you that way

So that you might share it with the world.

And make life better.

For everyone.

Eat salads.

Drink water.

Accept the fact that not everything has to have taste

To be good.

Like art.

And music.

And poetry.

But rock and roll is very important.

So, listen loud.

The best book you will ever read is the Bible.

It might seem long and boring and difficult to understand,

But it’s everything:

It’s a love story.

An action-adventure.

It is drama, comedy, and more.

It’s Truth!

And truth stays with you.

It guides you, directs you,

Comforts and amazes you.

Time after time.

So, don’t waste so much time

Investing in things that aren’t true.

When given the choice between

People and things.

Choose people. Every time.

I’m guilty of things meaning more to me — at times –

Than the people I love.

And that’s a regret I will never overcome.

I’m sorry.

Oh, but save your money.

For the love of all that’s good

And holy

And right with the world –

Please save your money.

You probably won’t need it

Because you’re all going to be famous,

And powerful,

And worth more than a hundred billion bucks.

But just in case.

Save.

Go outside more.

Travel.

Pick up trash when you see it on the ground.

Hold the door open for people –

Not just women –

But especially women.

Give firm handshakes.

Never care too much

About what other people think.

But don’t just do what feels good.

Do what feels right.

Because doing right feels best of all.

Cheer for Vanderbilt.

No matter what.

And Roll Tide.

Learn how to whistle.

Play an instrument.

Play chess.

Change a flat tire.

And drive a manual transmission.

That’s about all.

For now.

I love you so much.

You make me so, so happy.

Happy birthday to me.